Monday 18th April 2011
MP3 track of the day: Indie Rock and Roll – The Killers
Weather: Perfect; not too hot and not too cold. A deep blue sky appeared with fluffy white clouds … great for photos.
I sat up within my bed ... just for a moment. Out of the six beds, within my dorm, only another one was occupied. Even though it was 7:30am the hostel was quieter than normal. As I looked around reception I cast my mind back twenty-four hours; the anticipation, the thrill, the excitement which was shared with my new mates. The Colombians may been late but it had been an excellent weekend. Today felt like a massive anti-climax; I wondered how anything could beat the excitement of watching Lewis Hamilton drive around the final corner. How could anything beat the waving of the British flags, the cheers from the British supporters and the exit of the Chinese Ferrari fans? I sighted, realising that the best way to deal with an anti-climax is to keep busy, and that's exactly what I did.
First things first I had jobs to do. I headed to the post office to, probably, post my final parcel home. It consisted of a book about the Vietnam War, my Hong Kong photo book, my Shanghai F1 programme and my South East Asian guidebook (How many hours had I spent flicking through that book?). It cost nine pounds, to sent my parcel home, which I thought was very good value even if it would take two months to arrive. I then had breakfast before heading to the local supermarket. As I went up the escalator, to the food department, I realised that I didn't need much; I had plenty of water, the hostel sold instant noodle meals and so all I needed was a large bottle of coke, some chocolate and some biscuits as a dessert. It wasn't until I had paid for said items that I realised the packed of chocolate biscuits had cost me £3.60. Call it early morning syndrome, call it having trouble working out the currency exchange … call it what you will but I knew that I wouldn't be purchasing biscuits any more.
I put my food within the hostel kitchen and headed to the metro station. Part of me wanted to head back along line eleven to the circuit; knowing the F1 had finished I wanted to re-live the only part of the weekend I could. Instead I went one stop on line three before changing to line seven; my target was Shanghai's Expo area. As I sat down on the train I reminisced back to November 2010; I was in my 'HI hostel', within Christchurch, waiting for my flight to Auckland. On TV was a documentary about Shanghai's Expo and it went into great detail about each and every building. I remembered if vividly, every detail. I was reminiscing so much that I almost missed my stop; I exited the metro to be presented with a lovely sunny day and huge amounts of people. In the distance I could see the 'Chinese Pavilion' and, to my left, another building I reckonised from the documentary. I noticed that there didn't seem to be many other buildings, within the complex, and the entry ticket on sale was for the Chinese Pavilion and not the Expo site. I knew the Expo conference had finished last year however I still expected most buildings to be standing. I decided not to join the queues and instead I walked around the perimeter.
Once away from the pavilion the crowds disappeared and I soon found myself on my own. It was eerily; all around me were high wire fences with lots of rubble inside. Ticket booths and entry paths could be made out however most of the Expo buildings couldn't be seen. I continued my walk around the area noticing closed 'KFC's' and disused signs pointing to different areas of the Expo park; it felt like man had been wiped off the face of the earth and I was the only one alive (oh I hope Angela Jolie made it too). I completed my walk, taking photos where I could, until I made it back to the pavilion and civilisation. There was an information desk where I enquired into what was going on. It turned out that the park was gradually being dismantled, with the Chinese Pavilion remaining open until the end of May; it cost £2 to enter however the queue timings read 'estimated three hours until entry into pavilion'. As I usually like the outside of buildings more than the inside I headed back to the underground making myself a promise. If I had any spare time I would return to the 'Chinese Pavilion' … it would have to be early in the morning though.
Within the underground I looked at my map; I was only six stops away from the 'Maglev' train station. Suspended above the track, and propelled by the forces of magnetism, this baby could travel up to 430km per hour, so my guidebook stated. At £5 a trip it was a little pricey (and the fact that the line headed out of town to the international airport didn't help) but, as my guidebook stated “...you may never get another chance to go this fast on land ...”. I headed further out of town and, once at the 'Maglev' train station, I purchased a ticket. Just like at all Chinese train stations, including underground stations, I had to get my bag scanned. Once on the train I had plenty of room to stretch out; just above my head was a speed o'meter which, as we were stationary, read '0kph'. We were soon off, I watched the speed o'meter more than the view out of the window; 80kKph … 120kph …. 180kph ….. 270kph …. 350kph …. 430kph. It hovered between 430/431kph for the remainder of the journey; I looked out of the window surprised to make out more detail than I imagined. We flew past cars and soon we were slowing in preparation for arriving at the airport. Once at the airport I purchased a normal metro ticket – for 70p – and prepared to make the return journey. As the train pulled up I looked at my watch; the 'Meglav' train had taken ten minutes to get to the airport, how long would this train take to get back to where the 'Meglav' started?
I choose a seat where I had a good view of the 'Meglav' track, hoping to see a train wizz past in either direction. Whereas the 'Meglav' was a 'non-stop' service this normal metro line had ten scheduled stops, including a train switch. Once we arrived back at the 'Meglav's' starting point I looked, once more, at my watch. It had taken fifty minutes to reach the station; the underground train was five times slower than the magnesium guided train. I stayed on the underground train and went into town. The time was now 1pm; I ate lunch before heading to Shanghai's centre.
An area called 'The Bund' is Shanghai's heart and it once used to be owned by the British. I didn't need a history book to tell me this; looking at the wonderful architecture, and cobble stone streets, immediately brought images of colonial Britain to my mind. I walked along the front twice; once to take photos, across the water, at the Oriental Pearl Tower and then again to photograph the old colonial buildings, on this side of the river. Even though the Pearl Tower is Shanghai's most famous landmark, the colonial buildings were my favourite and made me proud to be British. I spent ages walking around these magnificent buildings photographing them from many different angles. Once this was done I could tell that the sun was going down and so it was time to head back to the hostel.
I caught line eleven back to the hostel, wanting to stay on the train all the way to the Shanghai F1 circuit. Back at the hostel I chatted to the staff (which, if I haven't mentioned before, are brilliant. Anything you need they will try to get). I blogged and surfed the internet (which included bring up current information about the Shanghai Expo area) before having tea. All-in-all it had been a good day, but not as good as the race yesterday. I hope to finish my sightseeing tomorrow as I don't want to extend my stay again; there are too many memories of good times here. This will be no mean feat; I have 'Remin Square' (with two excellent museums to see), the old quarter and the new financial district. This district includes a viewing platform, of the entire city, plus a sex museum (got to see that). This would then leave me Wednesday to sort out how I'm going to get to X'ian, and possibly head back to the Chinese Pavilion. Busy days!